Apple’s $55M fine over in-app payments for Dutch dating apps could grow faster

Apple could face an even bigger fine if the Dutch competition authority doesn’t agree to its recent proposal to meet its demands to allow dating apps to use alternative payment formats. The Dutch Consumers and Markets Authority (ACM) has fined Apple up to 50 million euros (about $55 million) for failing to comply with its order, and Monday’s fine marks Apple’s 10th fine.

Apple’s new proposal, filed on the 27th, is currently under review by the ACM, which could potentially force Apple to pay another round of fines “with potentially higher penalties.” The Dutch regulator has raised its fines in weekly increments of 5 million euros (~5.5 million USD), but the ACM makes it clear that this amount can be increased. If the new proposal results in “final terms” for dating apps, the ACM says it will release them to developers for evaluation. From there, the ACM will give Apple its final decision on whether or not the company will comply with the regulations.

On Sunday, March 27, Apple adjusted its proposal to comply with the Dutch Consumer and Markets Authority (ACM) requirements under Dutch and European competition rules. ACM welcomes Apple’s recent move. The amended proposal aims to result in definitive terms for dating app providers wishing to use the App Store. Once the proposal for the final terms is received, ACM will submit it to market participants for consultation. ACM will then make its determination as soon as possible as to whether Apple will comply with ACM’s request that alternative payment methods be available on dating apps in implementing these final terms.

As of last weekend, Apple still hadn’t met ACM’s requirements. Therefore, it has to pay a tenth fine, which means that Apple has to pay the maximum fine of 50 million euros. If ACM determines that Apple is not in compliance, ACM may issue another penalty payment order (this time with potentially higher penalties) to compel Apple to comply with the order.

There are no details on what is included in Apple’s new proposal, but the company hasn’t been the most flexible when it comes to complying with the ACM’s orders. In January, Apple said dating apps will offer alternative payment options, but only if developers create and upload a separate version of their apps specifically for the Netherlands. It would then charge the apps a barely discounted commission of 27 percent – instead of 30 percent – on all purchases from other payment providers.

“Only a monopolist would pay 50 million euros in fines rather than directly complying with the rule of law,” said Rick VanMeter, executive director of the Coalition for App Fairness. “We support the ACM’s persistence in holding Apple accountable over the past 10 weeks.” The CAF is made up of a group of companies committed to promoting competition and accountability for app stores, with founding members Epic Games, Spotify and Tile belong.

Apple’s decision to block developers from integrating alternative payment options has long drawn criticism from a number of tech companies, including Spotify, Tinder parent company Match Group, and most notably Epic Games. Google, which takes a 15 or 30 percent commission from apps in the Play Store, announced last week that it will test allowing Android developers to use other payment options, with Spotify as the first topic.

The edge reached out to Apple for comment, but didn’t immediately receive a response.

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